Mary Shelley founded modern science fiction with her 1816 classic Frankenstein. A decade later, she inaugurated the subgenre of post-apocalyptic sf with the less-lauded and less-known The Last Man. Shelley used the found-manuscript trope for this book, claiming to have discovered a series of seemingly connected stories on various pages in the Cumaean Sibyl's Cave, and stitched them together into this originally three-volume work. The story told here, of a far-future (late 21st century), is related by the last man, the sole survivor of a planet-wide plague that has brought an end to human civilization.
The Last Man was published during a more optimistic time, and arrived on the scene to poor reviews and poor sales, it was a novel out of time. It languished for a century and a half, until its scholarly rediscovery in the 1960s, which had its own pessimistic outlook. Now, in an era where global disaster through causes seen or unforeseen becomes increasingly plausible, Shelley's tale of the "stormy and ruin-fraught passions of man" finds a new home, and a new audience.
The Last Man is published here complete and unabridged, in one-volume, with Shelley's own footnotes and introduction.
Mary Wollsteonecraft Godwin was born in 1797, the daughter of author Mary Wollstonecraft (who wrote Vindication of the Rights of Woman) and radical philosopher William Godwin. Raised by her father following her mother's early death, her education came through contact with her father's intellectual circle and her own reading. She met poet and author Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1812, married him in 1814, and, in response to a bet among her husband's circle of friends, wrote Frankenstein in 1816. Mary bore four children, three of whom died in infancy. Her husband died in 1822, and she returned to England with her surviving son to support herself as a writer of novel, short stories, and travelogues, and as the editor of her husband's works. She died in 1851.
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